Fire and Shadow

AU. Rusty has been adopted not by ThunderClan...but ShadowClan!

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/4992672/1/Fire-and-Shadow

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5. Chapter Five

Over the next few moons, Firepaw learned his way around ShadowClan territory and familiarized himself with his duties and clanmates. He learned about the burnt sycamore, the carrionplace, even the secret Thunderpath tunnel that allowed ShadowClan to cross it. He was also taught about the other Clans—the thin, fast cats of WindClan; the heavier, swimmers of RiverClan; and the forest hunters of ThunderClan. When Firepaw was taught about StarClan a shiver ran its way up his tail and his spine. He was told that StarClan visited medicine cats in their dreams—was that what had happened to him? Was he meant to be a medicine cat?

But Firepaw didn't dwell on those thoughts often. He had to work to master ShadowClan hunting techniques—to creep and stalk silently. Firepaw could practically hear Boulder's lessons over and over again as he hunted:

"We are a Clan of cunning and cleverness, a Clan well suited to the shadows and the cold north wind. No other Clan can walk the paths of night like we do. Other Clans may be faster or stronger, but we are the most dangerous warriors: fierce, proud, and independent. We are ruthlessly willing to do what it takes to protect our great Clan."

Firepaw took his lessons to heart, learning the silent stealth walking that ShadowClan had developed to hunt. He was so proud the first time he used it successfully to hunt a frog! He'd been slightly less happy once he realized he would have to eat the frog. Boulder told him that frogs taste better than they look. Firepaw believed him—simply because it didn't seem possible that they could taste as bad as they looked.

In truth, they weren't that bad once you got that annoying rubbery skin off.

His fighting skills were improving along his hunting skills. Rowanpaw was so mad the first time Firepaw beat him in a practice bout. Jaggedtooth was even madder. Boulder had nodded once to Firepaw, a contented smirk on his face. It was the first positive sign he'd gotten from his mentor.

But there were times—once his apprentice duties were complete and he wasn't on patrol—when Firepaw found himself looking out over the Thunderpath, past the woods, to where his home was. He found himself missing his twolegs and the life he had led. These were the times when Firepaw wondered if he would've been happier if he had stayed a kittypet. He didn't feel this way often—but it was still more often than he would've wanted.

"I can't live with one paw in each world." He thought to himself. "If I only I knew for certain where I was supposed to be."Firepaw felt a twinge of regret that he never actually chose for himself where he wanted to be: Brokenstar had more or less—probably more—decided that for him; rushing him into the Clan before Firepaw—before Rusty could even be sure if that was what he wanted. Even the decision to stay in the Clan was made for him: he wasn't allowed out of the camp on his own. He could only leave the camp when he was on patrol or had to make dirt…even when he was in the camp he felt himself being watched…if not by Brokenstar himself then by Blackfoot or Clawface or Jaggedtooth. Moments alone were few and far between. Somehow, he didn't think they trusted him to stay. In truth, he wasn't sure either.

"Perhaps...perhaps if I could go home," he thought to himself. "Just for a day—I could know for certain if it was right for me or not."

"Hey, Firepaw!" So engrossed in his own thoughts and worries, Firepaw hadn't heard or scented Wetpaw sneaking up on him. "Get the cobwebs out of your head...Boulder's taking out a patrol."

Firepaw turned his head. "Where to?"

"Carrionplace." Wetpaw flicked an ear at Firepaw's face. "I know, I know...the place stinks but we have to check it out every so often. Make sure the rats there don't build up their numbers too high."

"They that dangerous?" Firepaw stretched as he made to follow Wetpaw back to the camp.

Wetpaw nodded. "They can be. Our last leader, Raggedstar—Brokenstar's father—led the warriors to kill as many of them as he could. His deputy at the time, Foxheart, died in the course of it. This was before I was born of course. The Elders still talk about it."

Firepaw shook his head and licked his paw. "Nasty." The two apprentices found Boulder standing at the entrance to the camp.

He waved his tail, beckoning them over. "Finally here are you? Come on, let's head out. The sooner we head out the sooner we get back."

"Where's Jaggedtooth?" Firepaw asked. Wetpaw purred contently.

"Busy training with Rowenpaw. Ever since you beat him Jaggedtooth's been working him hard so he can live down the shame of having a kittypet beat his apprentice." Firepaw purred too, catching the barest hint of a smirk on Boulder's face.

"Alright you two mousebrains." The gray warrior snorted. "Let's go already." With that, the two apprentices followed Boulder out of the camp.

The walk to the carrionplace was uneventful. Firepaw's whiskers twitched as the wind blew in from the rubbish piles that made up the carrionplace…they stunk something terrible. They had almost reached the carrionplace when Boulder's ears shot up. He hissed, claws unsheathed. "Rats!" He yowled in warning.

Firepaw and Wetpaw heard them a moment later, the sound of high pitched squeaking. Lots of it. Firepaw arched his back and dug his claws into the ground as the rats swarmed into view. Boulder swiped a paw in front of him as they drew close, knocking three rats aside. The cats were surrounded.

Wetpaw lashed out, a claw raking a rat from head to tail. Firepaw sunk his fangs into another one, shaking furiously as the rat squealed and went limp. Then he tossed it aside and started swiping at another rat. Boulder meanwhile had killed another two rats and had just sliced open another when the rats dispersed and fled.

Panting heavily, Wetpaw let out a confident yowl of victory. "We beat them!"

"T-they looked scared...of something..." Firepaw panted with equal parts exhaustion and exhiliration.

Boulder nodded to his new apprentice. "You're right. I've had enough experience with rats to know when they're scared of....." He trailed off and opened his mouth, trying to breathe in a new scent. It was difficult when the scent of garbage and rats was overpowering but... "oh no." Boulder moaned, going rigid when he saw a dog-like face poking out of the carrionplace it was followed by a reddish body and a bushy tail...

"Oh foxdung!" Wetpaw blurted out. "Fox!"

Boulder hissed at the fox, arching his back and raising his hackles to look larger. "Back away. Slowly." He meowed to the apprentices. Even as Firepaw backed away in terror he couldn't help but think "If I slip away now, I can go home!" He hated himself for thinking it...but Boulder and Wetpaw could get away from that fox easily. And this might be his only chance to go back to his twolegs...

Firepaw paused in indecision...then he saw a second fox approaching Boulder and Wetpaw from behind. It must've been the first one's mate; it was upwind of Boulder and Wetpaw who were already focused on the fox in front of them.

He hesitated for a second, trying to figure out what to do—then a sudden sense of urgency, of purpose filled him. Firepaw knew he could never leave Boulder and Wetpaw in this situation and live with himself. After all... "They're my clanmates."

With a sudden burst of speed Firepaw raced over yowling as he ran over to the second fox. "Behind you!" Boulder and Wetpaw whirled just in time to see the vixen growl as she bared her teeth, preparing to lunge at them. She was so close it would've been impossible to miss one of the two cats...until Firepaw barreled into her, claws slashing.

The dog fox started running over to the cats, intent on defending his mate. Boulder and Wetpaw turned back around in time to confront him, hissing and clawing. Then the melee began in earnest.

Firepaw sank his teeth into the vixen's foreleg, wincing as he felt her claws raking his side. He let go and lashed out with his claws, scoring bloody streaks down the side of the vixen's face. She yelped and jumped back. Firepaw hissed at her. The fox growled back and took a swipe at his head. Firepaw ducked and ran under her head and between her legs, raking and slashing with his claws as he ran underneath her body. As he ran out from under her, he bit her tail.

The fox had had enough. With a painful whine, she turned tail and started to half-run, half-hobble off. Her mate, looking suitably bruised himself, followed her. Firepaw panted, looking to his comrades. Boulder was breathing heavily, tired and scratched up. Wetpaw looked about the same. "Are you...okay?" Firepaw panted as he walked over.

Boulder nodded stiffly. "Nothing Yellowfang can't patch up...."

Wetpaw moaned at the thought. "I'd rather face the fox again...." Boulder purred in amusement.

Then Boulder turned to the orange tabby. "That was some impressive fight you put up...good work."

Firepaw blinked in surprise. "T-thank you..." he felt himself fairly flush with pleasure. For the first time since coming to the forest, he really felt like he was part of the Clan. Despite being tired, sore, and aching all over...Firepaw never felt better. He knew where he was meant to be.

"I am ShadowClan!"

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